Arizona’s Confused Reopening, and More Resources

By Ed Kimble

Last week, Gov. Doug Ducey extended Arizona’s stay-at-home order until May 15, but this week, he has been moving faster than expected to reopen retail, restaurants, and hair salons.

These moves come despite a continuing rise in new cases in Phoenix, though new Tucson cases are on the downswing according to this new tool from The New York Times that allows you to check infection and death trends in most major U.S. metro areas.

Meanwhile, with a fourth of all of U.S. COVID-19 deaths occurring among residents and staff in nursing homes and assisted living facilities (more than 16,000 deaths as of May 1), Gov. Ducey has instituted new rules requiring senior and disabled care facilities to keep their residents and family members informed about COVID-19 infections and deaths.

And to make matters worse, Kaiser Health News, and Next Avenue, the Twin Cities PBS project focused on seniors, are reporting unusual COVID-19 symptoms beyond dry cough, fever, and shortness of breath.

“[O]lder adults may seem ‘off’ — not acting like themselves ― early on after being infected by the coronavirus. They may sleep more than usual or stop eating. They may seem unusually apathetic or confused, losing orientation to their surroundings. They may become dizzy and fall. Sometimes, people stop speaking or simply collapse,” reports Judith Graham for Next Avenue. (Hmmm, those “symptoms” could be me on any day of the week before 10 am!)

If it’s all getting just too confusing, call Arizona 2-1-1, which has been staffed with a COVID hotline due to a $2 million allocation from the state legislature. The Crisis Response Network, which operates Arizona 2-1-1 and operates several regional crisis lines and a warm line, is hopeful live staffing will continue even after the COVID-19 crisis is over. They reported late last week that a coalition of organizations, including Valley of the Sun United Way, Arizona Public Service, EPCOR, Salt River Project, Southwest Gas, Tucson Electric Power, UniSource Energy Services and Vitalyst Health Foundation, have all contributed to fund the return of live-answer operations to 2-1-1 Arizona’s information and referral service in English and Spanish beginning on Thursday, April 30, 2020. Specialists will be available from 8am to 8pm seven days per week.

We got word this week from the Pima County Health Department that the jump in suicides that began with Tucson’s COVID-19 shelter-in-place advisory March 17 has continued at a rate of about one suicide per day. Month over month suicide rates vary, but this is a very high rate for Tucson, which had about half the number of suicides in February and early March, according to Community Mental Health and Addiction Program Manager Mark Person who issued health alerts to local healthcare providers about the suicide increases on April 14 and May 1.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is available 24 hours a day seven days a week, is (800) 273-TALK (8255).

For suicide prevention and other mental health resources, we received this great new roundup from Social Work License Map, an organization based in Colorado. Helpful links for days!

Also among the new and notable COVID-19 resource roundups is this one from Administration for Community Living which has done a particularly good job of addressing information needs of Spanish speakers, the hearing impaired and others with disabilities.

The National Center on LGBT Aging has also compiled new resources for LGBTQI+ elders with disabilities.

Diverse Elders Coalition has updated its COVID-19 resources page with extra focus on daily living needs, including food, in-home care, and social connections.

If you made it this far, you’re probably starting to think about life after the COVID Crisis. So is AARP, which asks which of the changes to our lives caused by the pandemic might be worth keeping around after it’s over.